Did Ezekiel See a UFO?
16 September 2022
A friend asked for my thoughts on “The Spaceships of Ezekiel” by Josef F. Blumrich in 1974. I hadn’t heard of the book before. But the topic sounded fun, even if speculative in a way that warrants skepticism. So I decided to give it a read.
The Book of Ezekiel is part of the Hebrew Bible. Ezekiel probably wrote the core text in Babylon during the early sixth century BCE. And others probably made changes and additions over time.
In the book, Ezekiel describes six visions. The visions include strange beings and objects – including the wings and wheels alluded to by the logo of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. And many modern readers have wondered about the possibility of a relationship between the visions and what we might describe today as ETs or UFOs.
One of those modern readers was Erich von Daniken, who wrote “Chariots of the Gods” in 1968. I don’t know much about that book. But apparently it attempts to make a case for the UFO connection. And it caught the attention of Blumrich, who was an aircraft and rocket professional.
Blumrich set out to refute Daniken’s case. At first, Blumrich had “the condescending attitude of someone who knows beforehand that the conclusions presented can by no means by correct.” But that changed. And at the end, Blumrich commented that “seldom has a total defeat been so rewarding, so fascinating, and so delightful!”
Blumrich on Ezekiel
In chapter one, Blumrich states that he’s “presenting engineering proof of the technical soundness and reality of the spaceships described by Ezekiel, as well as of the related events and procedures.” He observes that archeological evidence would be an important complement to his efforts. But that’s beyond the scope of his work. So let’s see whether and how he does what he claims.
In chapter two, Blumrich describes Ezekiel as a well-educated and broadly-experienced person. This is important, Blumrich notes, because it would lend credibility to Ezekiel’s reports. To the best of my knowledge, Blumrich’s description of Ezekiel is reasonable, based on what little we have from historical records.
In chapter three, Blumrich quotes long passages from the Book of Ezekiel, followed by interpretive re-tellings of the narratives. The re-tellings include elaborative explanations of how Ezekiel may be describing a spaceship and its occupants. The explanations do reflect the text, although to me they seem to be more creative than observational.
Blumrich doesn’t quote all the text from the Book of Ezekiel. He skips the religious parts, which he considers tangential to his goal. And he quotes only a sampling of the descriptive parts, which he considers exemplary of Ezekiel’s style.
I was disappointed that Blumrich didn’t offer an explanation for an occasion when Ezekiel has a vision while sitting in his house with other religious leaders. It seems like they would have seen a visiting spaceship. But neither does Ezekiel bother to say how the other religious leaders react to his visionary experience.
In chapter four, Blumrich describes his conception of a spacecraft that would be consistent with Ezekiel’s observations. It sounds pretty cool. I’m not a rocket scientist, so I can’t reliably comment on the technical feasibility. But he certainly sounds like a legitimate rocket scientist.
I can, I think reliably, comment on the relationship between the spacecraft conception and the text. It’s speculative. As mentioned before, Blumrich’s ideas do reflect the text. But they seem more creative than merely observational.
Blumrich doesn’t spend much time in this chapter actually tying his spaceship conception to the Ezekiel text. And he makes some conjectural leaps that I’m not comfortable with, while characterizing them as more objective than they actually are. For example, he mentions “the mission that the spaceships described by Ezekiel obviously had.” Unfortunately, that mission isn’t at all obvious to me.
Chapter five is the core of Blumrich’s case for a spaceship interpretation of Ezekiel. It engages in a much more detailed interpretive reading of the text, relating back to the conception of a spacecraft as described in chapter four. It does an excellent job of portraying why and how Blumrich connects the dots, so to speak. And although it doesn’t provide any necessity to the connections, it does generally establish plausibility.
A good example of how Blumrich approaches establishing plausibility is on page 63. There he relates the progression of Ezekiel’s observations to the probable order of phases of a spaceship (of the sort Blumrich describes in chapter four) engaging in a landing process. Again, I don’t see necessity in this account. But I do find the account plausible and admirably creative.
I don’t think Blumrich gives enough attention to how the religious parts of the text should influence our interpretation of the descriptive parts. For example, he comments that Ezekiel has “every reason … to believe that the commander is God himself.” And he bases this on the strangeness of the experience. But what about all the dialogue in the text, where the visitor actually does speak in the voice of God?
Blumrich even downplays the religious parts of the text at times. For example, he claims that, during one experience, Ezekiel might be expected “to believe that he was hearing the voice of the Lord.” But, per Blumrich, Ezekiel “stays aloof and in very sober terms states what he hears: ‘… the voice of one that spoke’; he avoids any tendency to glorify, to be sensational …” But in the very next chapter, Ezekiel claims, without any hesitation or questioning, that the visitor identifies as the “Lord.”
And sometimes Blumrich outright misrepresents the religious parts of Ezekiel’s text. An example of this is on page 75, where he claims that Ezekiel refers to the visitor “without any reverence.” But that’s not true. The text shows that Ezekiel repeatedly refers to the visitor as “Lord,” such as in chapter 4 verse 14, and even regularly prostrates himself before the visitor.
The downplaying and misrepresenting of the religious parts of the text don’t negate the plausibility of Blumrich’s technical interpretation. But they do weaken its persuasiveness. Why would the visitor care about Ezekiel at all, let alone take him to observe that which Blumrich characterizes as the cleanup of a malfunctioning reactor? Without a religious motivation, given Ezekiel’s religious status, none of the events make much sense.
Moreover, it’s altogether odd that anyone would trust Ezekiel’s accounts related to possible technological phenomena while not trusting Ezekiel’s accounts related to religion, even if bracketing agreement with whatever we suppose Ezekiel’s theology to be. If Ezekiel is an unusually gifted observed, as Blumrich claims, then that gift would surely extend most particularly to events most directly relate to his religious expertise. Surely Ezekiel could dependably describe religious words from a visitor that he esteemed as divine, if he could dependably describe technological phenomena.
On page 97, Blumrich briefly makes the case that technological stability over periods of decades should be expected from mature civilizations. Our technology is dynamic, he claims, because our civilization is at the beginning of a technical era. This doesn’t have a large impact on his arguments. But I’ll note that he isn’t writing with an awareness of the more modern hypothesis that technology may progress at an overall exponential rate for long periods of time.
In chapter six, Blumrich describes some patterns that he sees throughout the descriptive portions of Ezekiel’s text. This provides some elaboration on the plausibility of the technical interpretation. And it was interesting and creative, even if speculative rather than conclusive.
In chapter seven, Blumrich explains that the Book of Ezekiel probably has multiple authors, even if perhaps only one final editor. And he points out that this could explain some of the discrepancies between parts of the text. Blumrich also makes the interesting observation that the Book of Ezekiel has been controversial among some Jews due to its theological divergences. This, Blumrich contends, may be evidence that Ezekiel was accurately reporting ideas that he received from the visitor rather than re-stating accepted Jewish theology.
In chapter eight, Blumrich explores the motives of the visitors. And he sums them up as “exploration of the planet, observation and study of man, and intellectual influence on mankind.” He acknowledges that the religious parts of the text are an important contributor to identifying the third motive. But that seems strange, given that he repeatedly downplayed or misrepresented the religious parts of the text in his interpretive chapter.
Blumrich suggests that Ezekiel in particular could have proven to be important to the visitors because he demonstrated exceptional courage and intelligence. He didn’t run away. And he interacted articulately. Those characteristics, in combination with a position of religious authority, may have made him a useful target to leverage for intellectual influence.
Blumrich, however, is overlooking the full power of cultural influence. And that would make Ezekiel an even better pick. It also makes more sense than efforts at a more analytical intellectual influence. If you want humanity to develop in a certain direction, you want to shape their shared esthetics (their religion) first and foremost!
At the end of this chapter, Blumrich asks some thought-provoking questions to illustrate what he perceives as a difference between the visitors and modern humans. They’re worth quoting here. “Would we be able to muster so much trust in the intelligence of others and so much faith in the fertility of ideas to try to strengthen only the faith of these beings in their people and their religion?” He continues, “Would we really prefer natural growth to assistance by superior material power which could only be effective for a short time?”
In chapter nine, Blumrich makes a case for convergent evolution. He cares because Ezekiel repeatedly says that the visitors look “like a man.” That doesn’t mean that the anatomies have to be exactly the same, Blumrich rightly observes. And, as an aside, I generally agree with him on the likelihood of convergent evolution, although I suspect robots are more likely than organics to engage in interstellar exploration.
Finally, in chapter ten, Blumrich summarizes his argument and concludes with a call to open-mindedness. He summarizes his argument in a manner that suggests more conclusiveness than creativity. But I do agree with his call to open-mindedness. And I do think his creative interpretation offers a plausible direction in which to think about the origins of the Book of Ezekiel.
God as ET in a UFO
Did Ezekiel encounter UFOs and ETs? I don’t know, of course. Blumrich creatively offers what seems to be a generally plausible case. And I enjoy contemplating such possibilities.
My reverence for scripture in general, whether it be the Bible or the Book of Ezekiel or otherwise, arises from its practical consequences in our lives. It certainly doesn’t arise from any supposed supernatural origin. In fact, I generally reject the coherence of supernaturalism, except to the extent that “supernatural” may be used to describe things for which we just don’t yet have a natural explanation. So I’m fine with the possibility of UFOs and ETs being involved in the origin of scripture.
Is God an ET? Sure. By most accounts, God is, at least in part, beyond Earth. And that’s exactly what “extraterrestrial” denotes.
Does God travel in UFOs? Maybe. Per my ontology of God, less powerful aspects of God may travel in UFOs, perhaps engaging in a sort of interplanetary missionary work. But I trust that the more powerful aspects of God are connected with us in a way that’s less like space travel and more like world computation.